SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, III. - The 596th Transportation Brigade’s Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point and its installation forester received the DoD Team Achievement Award for significant contributions to longleaf restoration and conservation during an awards ceremony hosted by the Longleaf Alliance, 26 October.
The Longleaf Alliance is an environmental organization dedicated to preserving forest areas with longleaf pine ecosystems. While forests of this species historically dominated the Southeast region, stretching from Eastern Texas to Southern Virginia, only a fraction remain today. The Alliance hosts a conference and awards banquet every two years to recognize individuals, private landowners, land managers, wildlife biologists, conservation groups, and others for their endeavors and achievements in sustaining longleaf ecosystems.
Michael Fuller serves as forester for MOTSU, the largest military ammunition terminal on the east coast MOTSU and a transfer point for the import and export of arms, ammunition, explosives, and military equipment for the U.S. Army and Defense Department.
“Fuller’s position is critical to our mission to provide a safe, environmentally sustainable installation,” said Steve Kerr, 596th deputy to the commander.
Fuller conducts controlled burns throughout MOTSU, which is surrounded by almost 8,600 acres of forest and vegetation. Controlled burning, also known as prescribed burning, involves setting planned fires to maintain the health of a forest. Fuller schedules the burns so the fire will not pose a threat to the public or to MOTSU’s mission.
“I conduct prescribed fires that reduce the fuel loads around the ammunition,” he said. “This reduces the chance of wildfires and the severity of them. The reduction also increases visibility from a security standpoint.”
In accordance with the federal Sikes and Endangered Species Acts, Fuller must also ensure local wildlife and plants are not impacted by the fires.
When he started his position, much of MOTSU’s surrounding area was fire suppressed and included only a very small population of six active red-cockaded woodpecker families. Fuller realized that controlled fires could impact their numbers significantly, so within a few months started small seasonal burns and contracted biologists to monitor the woodpecker population as well as introduce additional families to help them thrive.
Over the course of the year, Fuller conducted prescribed fires on 2,500 acres around MOTSU. At the same time, he installed artificial habitats within the landscape, increasing the red-cockaded woodpecker population to 20 active clusters, surpassing the Fish and Wildlife Service’s recovery goal of 17.
MOTSU now averages prescribed burning of 3,500 acres a year and has 24 active woodpecker clusters with 18 breeding groups.
The area is also home to several federally endangered plant species. Fuller’s program enabled these species to flourish and allowed additional populations to be discovered. He arranged annual botanical surveys of MOTSU’s main terminal and the outlying properties, to document these populations.
“Michael has continually applied his subject matter expertise over the years to build the program to what it is today,” said Malcolm Charles, public works director for MOTSU. “The outstanding results of his efforts show an exceptional dedication to his craft, and the positive impacts to the environment will be felt for years to come.”